Advise for beginners

rcarmac

Robert
Corporate Member
No project will ever be perfect. But we, as the builder, will be the only one that will ever see the flaw.

In my woodworking projects and also my work as an architect, I seem to focus a lot on the what I should have done, what I could have done better, and the places I made a mistake. It takes effort to just step back and enjoy what you created
 

mkepke

Mark
Senior User
You can learn from experience or you can learn from others. The latter is a faster path to proficiency for most people.

Figure out an annual budget and include the cost of lumber and education.

Buy tools based on the specific projects you want to build.

Test on scrap before committing a cut or finish to your good stock.

-Mark
 

Craig C

Craig
User
These are some great guiding principles. One of mine that I would add: Before you click a machine on, if that little voice in your head is saying, "What I'm getting ready to do doesn't feel totally safe, but it will probably be OK." STOP. Take 60 seconds to catch your breath, refill your coffee, think it over. That little voice is the best safety guard in your shop.
 

michaelgarner

Michael
Senior User
Take the time to learn under no pressure. Buy a couple of quality hand tools and some pine or poplar (with no knots) and practice planing, sawing, chiseling, dovetailing, and all matter of joinery. Go into it without the intent of a finished product. Early on, I realized I was expecting myself to produce master level furniture and projects without the requisite skillset to achieve it. I did what I mentioned above. I put all of the projects that I wanted to do on the shelf and had fun. I planed so many BF of different species of wood I began to develop a better feel for my tools on different woods. I would find a joint that I hated doing (generally because I wasn't good at it) and did it countless times. I learned to scribe and cut a line, yes I have a table saw, bandsaw, and all of the power tools. Trust me, hand cutting to a line with a saw is a skill that will benefit every aspect of your craft. I also learned to say no, when someone asked me to build something for them I would name a price, and inevitably they would say wow that's expensive can you come down on that. I simply would say no. My time is as valuable as theirs is, and craftsmanship is costly and worthwhile. If they disagree on a price then pick up matrial the next weekend and make something that your heart pulls you to. Just don't compromise your time or talent, we all have a limited number of days on this earth, and fewer projects that we will complete in our respective lifetimes, make them count.
 

Skymaster

Jack
Senior User
Don’t do what I did. Once the hobby pays more than for itself, it is no longer a hobby and all the fun is gone.
absolutely amen, but deep down still sometimes a little fun :}:}:}:}:}: I am in same boat but have to work well beyond retirement age
 

BKind2Anmls

Susan
Corporate Member
When using a band saw or a scroll saw, look where you are going not where you are cutting. Just like driving a car, you don't look at the tires, you look a little ahead. Look ahead of the blade, not at it.
 

Fred J

Fred
User
While I’m not a beginner, I appreciate all that have shared their knowledge. This is one of the reasons for joining. I do need to add more quality hand tools to my arsenal.
 

Ed Fasano

Ed
Senior User
I will add one piece of advice for beginners.

This is akin to an old rule of work in a hobbyist photographic darkroom. There was, in the day, a dizzying number of choices in developing chemical brands, chemicals types and printing papers. One was well-advised to try a few and then choose ONE film and ONE paper developing process AND STICK to it. One was strongly advised to avoid excessive bouncing around to different chemicals, times, dilutions, and processes. Doing so was a fast path to never knowing what went wrong when something did go wrong. Moreover, there was no “best” process.

I submit that the same is true with finishing woodworking projects. Get good with a coating product that suits your tastes/style(s) and STICK WITH IT. Experiment only on test work if you like, and change your core go-to product ONLY when a test or your core preferences/style screams for change. If a change is called for and made, STICK WITH IT.
 

Graywolf

Board of Directors, Vice President
Richard
Corporate Member
When buying tools, (hand or power) buy the best you can afford at the time. Build to something over time.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
Get a used copy of "Cabinetmaking and Millwork" By John Feirer
Go through the index first. There's a lot to woodworking or at least can be.
As time goes by, each chapter will have new meaning. Just the chapters on wood alone make it worth the price of admission. Wood hasn't changed for a long time.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
Get a used copy of "Cabinetmaking and Millwork" By John Feirer
Go through the index first. There's a lot to woodworking or at least can be.
As time goes by, each chapter will have new meaning. Just the chapters on wood alone make it worth the price of admission. Wood hasn't changed for a long time.
That was the first book I ever read on woodworking, still refer to it occasionally.
 

Keye

Keye
Corporate Member
Someone has already said it, we all make mistakes. Some just bigger than others. Scored some air dried walnut, my favorite, so I decided for a change to make something for myself. Decided on a small 4 drawer chest for my side of the bed. Used case construction with half blind dovetails, drawers dovetail front and back, back of chest has ship lap boards, dust divider between each drawer, drawer rails are dovetailed. I think it is the best work I have done except for my mistake. The case was finished and sitting on a workbench when I walked in and saw my mistake. The drawer rail cuts did not line up. It was headed to the burn pile when I decided to set it aside and cool off. Figuring out how to salvage at least something took a lot of thinking and some work. The chest is sitting by the bed with my mistake. Smallest drawer at the top biggest at the bottom, correct? Nope! The largest drawer is the third from the top. There was no way I could save anything and have the largest drawer at the bottom. It is a small chest and the difference in 3rd and 4th drawer is not a lot. I see it every day and I am proud I was able to save it and consider it priceless.

Most mistakes can be made to work out even if your finished project is not what intended when you started.
 

craftbeerguy

Craft Beer Guy
User
Looking back after 27yrs, aside from my Unisaw saw, I think having a few very precision tools like accurate squares and rulers (Incra like precision) and a few well-tuned handplanes brought my creations together. A pad of graph paper really helps with adjusting proportions when you design.
 

Pop Golden

Pop
Corporate Member
Years ago an old woodworker told me a story. It goes that there was a guy visiting Mexico. He came up on a woodworker that had produced a beautiful chair. How much asked the guy? The woodworker told his $50. The guy then said I want 8 chairs. "Oh!" said the Mexican the price will be $80 bucks per chair. The guy said "I don't understand why the price jump?" The Mexican replied "Senior, 1 chair is fun 8 chairs are WORK"

Pop
 

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